Most People seem to agree that we cannot and do not want to go back to the past, but the reason given is often wrong; that time has moved on and what was can never be again. The truth is that we cannot go back to what we never left. Our home is the earth, our time the Pleistocene Ice Ages. The past is the formula for our being.
(Paul Shepard)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

ashby and the atlatl

Hi, If you are a bow hunter or atlatl hunter (all two of you) you should be aware of the Natal study by Dr Ashby. The study was to look at the lethality of the bow before bowhunting was legalised in Natal.
Read the study it is really good and stands as pretty much a definitive work on lethality and projectiles As you know bows and darts don't kill larger game by hydrostatic shock so lethality is best determined by the amount of penetration an arrow can attain. Ashby was able to be very specific in his recommendations and nicely for us primitive types it looks like the ancient hunters pretty much had it sorted out way back then. The two downsides are arrow shaft diameter and shaft friction, both of which are harder to get "right" under primitive conditions. I have noticed that atlatl darts get less penetration than standard arrow shafts but they hit with a far greater "whallop"
In a past article I wrote about dart speeds and added the kinetic energy of the darts I will now
add in the momentum calculations.
I am not a mathematics whizz and have been told to work out momentum through mass x velocity I will use grams and MPH as measurements.

- pine dart: 105 gram - 51 mph or 74 fps
- Mark Bracken river cane dart: 118 gram - 56 mph or 82 fps
- Atlatl Bob aluminium dart: 67 gram - 61 mph or 89 fps
- Chris Oberg carbon dart: 91 gram - 64 mph or 93 fps
We found 65 mph for the fastest dart (river cane, 98 gram). Most of the dart speeds were between 55 mph and 60 mph.

My workings for foot pounds

pine dart 20.18 foot pounds

river cane 27.27 Foot pounds

aluminium 18.37 foot pounds

carbon 27.47 foot pounds


pine dart 5.355
river cane 6,668
aluminium 4,087
carbon, 5,824

for comparison .22lr 38 grain 1050 fps 69 ftlb (100yd) 2. 46 grams 715.9 mph (stats off the ammo box)


so we can see how a .22lr varmint gun while whipping the atlatl in foot pounds compares poorly
in momentum.

A 150 fps stick bow shooting a 600 grain arrow gives us momentum of;
4.097 which (while an heavy arrow) does not compare that well with any save the aluminium dart.

thanks to ken for the formula

Thursday, 8 December 2011

scavenging revisited

this study
is about primate hunting and carnivory of particular relevance to the last post is the following;

However, evidence suggests that primates avoid scavenging even if the logistic support carrion is fresh [Ragir et al., 2000]

More here

Monday, 5 December 2011

Scavenger or hunter?

Scavenger or hunter?

We reinvent the past to determine the future and make sense of the present. The far past the paleolithic, with its lack of written evidence and (not so) scarce archaeological record is ripe for this kind of interpretive reinvention. In the 60s and 70s we viewed our very distant ancestors as “blood apes” a fierce little hunter who grew in stature and hunting prowess over the millennia and whose aggressive hunting tendencies explained the devastating 20th century wars. Biology resists the view of our distant ancestors being in any way vegetarian (though if it didn’t this is surely how they would be viewed) but the view of our time is of habilis as a scavenging tool user.

(side) I will assume for purposes of clarity that the current family tree is the correct one, but gentle reader, be assured that there is much controversy over who evolved from whom

How far back can hunting be attributed to the genus Homo? The general view at the moment is that early hominids obtained their meat by scavenging the remains of large predators before developing the tools to obtain carcases for themselves. In Europe at least Homo Hiedelbergensis can be attributed with accomplished big game hunting skills with tell tale weapon fractures on large game human butchering marks on bones of prime (and frequently only prime) animals and beautifully effective wooden spears. Bone evidence also exists for Africa and Asia.

However much of life for animals is ephemeral and is lost forever aside from the rarest of cases the evidence for a scavenging lifestyle is found on bones which have cut marks OVER the tooth marks of the four legged predators

Pat Shipman of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, one of the first to analyze remains at hominid sites with a scanning electron microscope. Her recent study of overlapping cut marks on 1.7-million-year-old animal bones suggests that the ancient prey were scavenged by hominids. Close inspection reveals that most of the cut marks created by hominid tools were made after overlapping sets of carnivore tooth marks were imprinted. Only 13 sets of overlapping marks have been studied however she adds,…….There are precious few rules by which organisms operate.

It should be noted here that stone tool marked bones recently found associated with australopithecus afarensis were on bones that bore no sign of non-human predation.

Many scientists and non scientists have shown that meat and marrow can be found scavenging on the African savannah, arguments for scavenging before effective tool use are mainly centered upon our slow paced bipedalism and relatively (compared to say, leopards) inoffensive bodies. Scavenging (scaring animals off game) is also practiced by some African traditional peoples today.

However there are no scavenging apes, not a one. There is a rule that palaeontologists’ use which is basically that fossil organisms must follow the rules of living organisms unless overwhelming evidence points to the contrary. For example; mammals have a heart and two lungs so extinct mammals must also have a one heart and two lungs. There are no scavenging apes or any solely scavenging, terrestrial animals (hyenas hunt more than lions).

There is no modern analogue of a scavenging ape (or monkey) indeed the two simians that live on the savannah (baboons and hadza) have a similar diet in terms of species of which the animal portion is mostly hunted. Our ape cousin the chimpanzee hunts exclusively, habilis was an ape armed with sticks and stones and smarter than either baboons or chimpanzees, it would seem odd if it were incapable of hunting at least small game. In fact I always found it less likely that it could scare off or defend any kill from any other scavenging animals. Even Hyenas run from Lions.

The cart does not go before the horse in that we did not evolve lungs and then decide to try them out on land. If you are a developed successful hunter it’s because your ancestor at least tried to be. Habilis may not have hunted game much bigger than a hare and may not have been that successful at it. Scaring lions off a kill maybe easy for a modern human as every animal on the planet KNOWS that humans are really bad news and stay out of our way. Lions couldn’t care less about jackals and are unlikely to have been intimidated off a kill by a 4’ scavenging Habilis.

Getting past lions, hyenas, Jackals or even vultures would not be easy for a “defenceless scavenger” so we might have to assume that Habilis would have to find kills or dead animals that had no predators on them and give up the bodies when larger animals arrived. Hadza women can scare leopards and lions off their kills by yelling and waving their digging sticks but we have to remember that Hadza do kill lions and leopards and, as humans, are a feared apex predator. Presence of scavengable game is not enough we need to see that it can be scavenged successfully. In addition can chance encounters with undefended kills have been enough to fuel the enormous increase in body size and brain capacity between species of homonid? Before you get onto bone marrow, animal scavengers eat bones.

I must admit that I have never really been convinced by the idea that early hominids obtained their meat by scavenging. Of course I am sure that some was and the evidence shows that at last some meat was scavenged but I suspect that a proportion was obtained through hunting. I am by the way in no way arguing that men provided the majority of calories while wife and baby stayed at home blah blah drone. What I am saying is that here we have a consensus that habilis was a scavenger based on fairly slight evidence and in opposition to a law of palaeontology (as I understand it). I would ask all use the word forager to describe habilis and indeed any “wild” hominid. Food gathered hunted or scavenged was located and foraged for in the environment where habilis lived.

why not iceland?

While I am in no way a fan of comparing the health of countries I am aware that it happens all the time. One thing I find interesting is the idea that Japan has the highest life expectancy and one of the lowest obesity rates in the developed world therefore they must be ultra healthy. They eat a high carb diet with low amounts of fat and animal products ipso facto so should we in the west. Comparing countries in this way really isn't helpful as there are so many mitigating factors and variables to make any comparison or statistic almost meaningless, and that's before we get into questioning how the statistics were collected, collated and reported. I am one BMI point away from obese (obese! I'm not even overweight) my slender wife is 'obese' and I know many other people who have been amused to find they are overweight/obese.
I lived in Japan for many years and I have since smiled slightly when I hear how healthy they are, as this is certainly not the impression one gets from living there. I won't bore you with the anecdotes or details. In addition life expectancy so often given as a marker of health of validity or life style choices is to my mind of no use unless it is coupled with good health until death. I personally know (and I'm sure you do too) people in their nineties with alzheimer's or severely restricted mobility or other serious health problems, you can keep that sort of longevity (Ancel keyes anyone)?
Regardless of that in the publics' mind and in the mind of the media longevity is the key marker for health, the main purpose for me writing this is that Japan DOES NOT have the highest life expectancy for males. The life expectancy a birth for males in Japan is 78 years while in Iceland it is 79.2 years. This compares with 76 years in the UK .
Japanese women live longest and this drags Japans' total for both genders to the number one spot. When I say this to people I usually get "oh but they have high levels breast cancer and CVD" which is of course quite true but when was the last time someone mentioned Japans' sky high stomach cancer or stroke death rates?
The main reason why I am writing about this is that Iceland eats diet high in saturated fats and animal proteins (dairy and meat) there is lots of rye and oats in there as well as plenty of sugar, it is by no means an ideal diet but it is the diet eaten by the world's longest lived male population.
This should of course be of interest to those of us with a northern European heritage (before my Grandfather died he revealed that our family had emigrated to Scotland from Iceland) and perhaps gives us a better model or basis for our lives and diets. I'm going to try to find more health data for Iceland to share I know that in the savage weather of the 16-18th centuries and after many in Iceland ate no grains but subsisted on dried fish.

Why don't we hear about this much??? If I said vegetarian conspiracy would you hold it against me?

Monday, 28 November 2011

Born to Run? Maybe!

A persistent problem

Persistence hunting is nicely outlined in this wikipedia article. and I’m going to send you to this article as well.

There is lots of noise in the primitive world about our supposed evolutionary inheritance of long distance chasing. The idea is that many of our distinctive features as homo sapiens are evolved traits for a particular form of hunting called persistence hunting where and animal is chased (or hounded!) over a long distance until it eventually succumbs to exhaustion and can be killed with hand spears or with bare hands. There is a famous youtube film showing !Kung bushmen in the Kalahari doing just that and several books on the subject.

I run and I even run in barefoot shoes I certainly don’t run marathons but have gone through periods where I was running a good 10 miles several times a week. Now winter is coming (not that you’d really notice) I am running more and more as the woods I prefer to play in become very slippery and I can’t access them in the early evening because its dark at 4pm. I really enjoy running and if I become convinced by the evidence am quite happy to integrate longer runs into my physical training.

My understanding of the evidence does not lend me to the conclusion that long distance running is a key factor in our evolutionary heritage, understanding why is important to me as I strive to live in an evolutionarily congruent manner. My understanding leads to me to believe that intermittent running but more importantly long distance walking are far more important. With some very violent physical activity on an occasional basis.

The moderns: As far as I know the !Kung are the only hunter gatherers known to engage in persistence hunting. The Tarahumara and other Native Amercans who engaged in long distance running were farming peoples and as such are not really valid for talking about evolutionary lifeways.

The !kung belong to a small group of humans who still exist as hunting peoples (I believe that now they cannot be called hunter gatherers but rather welfare recipients who occasionally poach game) the Bushmen were driven into the Kalahari by farming Africans and Europeans in the historical past and were considered extinct until the 1960’s or so. They live in an extreme environment in which game is scarce, persistence hunting in this context could easily be characterised as an extreme response to an extreme situation. To my knowledge no other African (or hunters from any continent) hunters take part in any form of persistence hunt.

As the !kung do not suffer from the diseases of civilisation (DoC) we could argue from their case that occasional long or extreme “cardio” sessions are not adverse to long term health. It may very well be that much of the carbholic behaviour of modern runners is responsible for some of the health problems associated with the sport.

The four leggeds; Dogs are modern day perisitence hunters, wolves, Dhole and African Hunting dogs all hunt primarily by the chase rather than by the ambush (like cats). Obviously they are not bipedal but it is worth remembering that there are animals who follow a similar hunting strategy (if persistence hunting is our evolved niche) in the same environment (Africa). We could expect to see some examples of convergant evolution. Our sweating bipedal hairless nature as often given as responses to chasing animals in the hot sun, responses African hunting dogs have not had to make.

There are many examples given of evolved human features that “show” that we or at least our ancestors ran on an occasional basis (long ligaments Achilles tendon nuchal ligament and some specialised diaphragm adaptations that allow us to breath out of step with our, er steps. The list is long and quite compelling, of course we are plantigrade, tailess bipeds which is very unusual (unique!) in evolution and we talk. So I’m not sure that these adaptations can be explained solely by a running niche. For example the near absence of the Achilles tendon in most apes (not gibbons) is often given as a proof of a running heritage as the Achilles tendon increases running effectiveness. Which sounds really plausible until you realise that apes are arboreal animals that live in dense forests and so we should expect them to be physiologically different from humans, they are also quadrupeds.

There were animals with human-like morphology that we know had very different lifestyles from erectus or even africanus. I would be more convinced if it were shown that Paranthropus a herbivorous bipedal animal lacked the physical features of habilis, erectus etc. I am not aware of any research or writing on this matter which is a shame as it would be an excellent argument for a running heritage if Paranthropus lacked those features.

I have outlined here why I am not convinced that humans have a running heritage or ecological niche. Mostly it is because I know of only one modern group of H/Gs that use it as a hunting strategy. I don’t think the unusual physical attributes of humans or human ancestors can only be explained by a running niche and more importantly I believe that there are ways to demonstrate these adaptations against other plantigrade bipeds rather than arboreal quadrupeds.

It is very common that people want to push their activity as far back into the past a possible, to give it great antiquity or even to make it “natural”. I believe that this is the main reason that persistence hunting is pushed as our ecological niche mostly by marathon and other long distance runners. If the !kung are looked at though they run at a far more relaxed pace than any modern runner they don’t gorge on energy packs and pasta and they don’t run every day. Most importantly they don’t wear nike trainers and run on concrete. If you want to run like your ancestors this should be remembered, entering and training for marathons (even barefoot ones) is not persistence hunting and certainly not what you were “born to do”.

As an after thought all hunter gatherers use projectile weapons the use of which can be traced back in the ephemeral fossil record to Heidelbergensis (my favourite!) if you want to find something you really were born to do throw a spear

“Born to throw”!!!!!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Barefoot living

Hi, I am barefoot right now I live barefoot I walk barefoot and occasionally run barefoot. I have shoes with heels that I wear when I have to, they make me feel clumsy. As a concession to modern glass and rubbish I wear terra plana shoes as my general wear and merrel trail gloves to work out and trail run in.
As a quick aside I used to run in Asics running shoes, I used ton run a lot and would trail run in my local woods. I found I would "roll" my shoes and twist my ankles a fair bit. Since going to trail gloves I find that never happens and I run with a great deal more confidence and sensitivity. When (for some reason) I went back to the Asics through the woods I immediately started to roll my ankles again.
I believe the hype. we are bipeds, have been before we were even the genus Homo, support of any description is not how our bodies are designed to walk and as walking is fundamental and frequent I strongly suspect that the evidence of modern heels being deleterious to health to be true.
I believe the hype but.......... as with everything "paleo" there is a whole lot of shit about this being talked out there.
Prediction; we are going to see a lot of injuries from barefoot running in the next few years and there will be a swing back to supported footwear. I say this for the enormously obvious reason that humans are equally not adapted to run on asphalt or concrete.
Humans may or may not be adapted for long distance running, I would say not, to my knowledge there is one group of Hunters who use persistence hunting and then it is only one technique of hunting among many. I would also say that the bushmen of the kalahari were forced into the kalahari relatively recently by African and European ghastliness, persistence hunting may be a response to living in such a harsh and desperate environment. Much of the "born to run" hypothesis is based on horticulturalist native Americans and Africans. Most studied hunter gatherers are said to run little while they are all reported to travel long distances by foot (or sledge/canoe in the arctic).
This is perhaps an argument for a different time I will say that according to fossil trackway and ethnographic sources it would seem that walking and interval (fast) running would be good activities to conduct barefooted. Protracted long distance running on man-made surfaces is a product of modern culture and it may or may not be beneficial to use minimalist footwear. It would I think be erroneous to describe such activities as innately human without a very strong evidence base.
For the gait of barefoot running I use a mid strike as heel striking is simply too painful to countenance. Much of the premise of Barefoot running is based on this and it seems likely and logical to adjust the stride length and footfall to account for it.

However I have started to notice that people are question heel striking in barefoot walking.This to me is startling but perhaps demonstrates the old Taoist thing about the "sage confusing the people".

My daughter walks like the girls in the film it is a strong image but I don't look to her for guidance on digital dexterity or balance because she is not developed and co-ordinated yet. Indeed it is natural for toddlers to walk like that but is considered a sign of problems if the don't develop a heel toe gate.

I truly admire the barefoot sensei and love his work, I really wish I lived in the U.S. for I would sell up and go learn from him, but on the footfall.....the archaeological evidence says heel-toe is the natural human gait. Indeed it is so for all plantigrade animals. I fox walk when I hunt but not when I'm going from place to place, barefoot or minimalist you walk quieter anyway your feet naturally start finding their way in the woods, they become incredibly sensitive and as a consequence so the rest follows.
Indeed spearthrowing barefooted is a fantastic experience you really feel the changes in pressure across the foot, so much so that throwing in boots becomes a very awkward experience. We really do throw with our feet.
There are scores and scores of fossil trackways across the world from millions of years ago to the Mesolithic. Ice agers wearing moccasins, aborigines sprinting, Mesolithic children playing around their parents a neanderthal sliding down a slope. Human gait is well documented in the fossil record and so is the development of Hominid bipedality. It is no mystery. More than the heel toe what I notice about the fossil footprints is that Tom Brown (the tracker) was right when he talked about the rolling ,sprawling gait of the modern urbanite. Look how "tight" the Aborigine trackway is in the above picture.
The barefooters a right,I'm sure, your joints back balance life will all be improved by moving as you are supposed to, thing is our bodies and the archaeology show us we are already going barefoot all we need to do is throw away our shoes.
(sources on request)
Aboriginal trackways
Mick Dodge
Mesolithic British tracks

Spell checker isn't working so sorry for any mistakes.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Hunting strategies with the spearthrower

I'm trying to workout how to combine my modern-Paleo life blog with the spearthrower blog. I'm not much of a writer and can't really spread myself over two blogs. I kinda think that we should be aiming for a unity anyway. I can't workout how to do it but here is something that reaches across.
H/G prey selection, the spearthrower is effective enough that prey can be left uneaten if it does not meet H/G nutritional requirements. Australian aborigines on killing kangaroos inspect the abdomen for visceral fat. If the animal does not have a high enough fat content it is left.
I can't find the source which is not so good but it's from Melissa Mcewan's blog here which is well worth a look round
To me this suggests that even in as hard an environment as Australia the spearthrower gives enough reliability in hunting to discard sub-standard food sources.
The main item of interest is this extract
it details some interpretations of Magdalenian (spearthrowers all) kill and butchery sites. Interesting to note that they could and did target specific animals. I seem to remember the same of the stellmoor kill site with interpretation of hits suggesting no wild haphazard shooting but a deliberating aiming to kill with every shot.
It is tempting to interpret the results as showing larger social groups separating during the summer to follow the herds (as the cresswell crags site is interpreted) before meeting up for larger communal kills which can then very happily be cached in the frozen ground or snowbanks. Fatty animals would be essential for winter survival in the ice age to prevent rabbit starvation.
I'm not sure about the vegetable requirements cited in the paper. I would expect some processing remains (stones etc) if they were eating grass seeds. Berries of course would be most welcome. It is odd that there is this "need" for ice age Europeans to have eaten some vegetable matter, if there's no evidence of it then quite frankly it doesn't need to be talked about. I suspect that they ate some amount of vegetable matter in summer/autumn but with all that fatty meat it is doubtful that they would have"needed" to.The chart above shows the fat content of reindeer through the year.
It was interesting to see some of the other animals (presumably) hunted by spearthrower including bear, BEAR! someone had rocks!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Hadza diet

Check out the diet of these studied hunter gatherers from this blog
the hadza eat over 4000 Calories!!!!!!!!!